Known and loved by many as a tourist hotspot on the Dorset coast, Poole is also home to missional community Reconnect. The community, which has been meeting in the area since September last year, celebrated its commissioning in a town centre café in March. Revd Paul Bradbury, Pioneer Minister for Poole Town Centre and Hamworthy, and Community Leader of Reconnect, explains more.

Reconnect's intention, our vision, right from the start was very much to see people become Christians from an unchurched background. We are still finding out what happens after that. Reconnect may help to create new communities for these people, or perhaps they will ultimately feed into existing churches, or join us. We are not sure really, but we do know that we are open to what the Spirit is saying, and are working closely with other churches in a bid to do what God wants us to do.

When I became Pioneer Minister in September 2008, the then Bishop of Sherborne, Tim Thornton, conducted the licensing ceremony at St James' Church, Poole Old Town and then on the Quay. We walked from the church in a bit of a rabble down to the seafront where there was an exchange of symbols – I was given a bucket of seeds and a fishing net to represent the Kingdom and  the work I'm doing.

Reconnect - rule of lifeOn 21st March, the Bishop, Dr Graham Kings, came and commissioned us as a community at a café in the town. We had about 70 people there and started off with some children's activities before the bishop led the commissioning and we signed the rule of life – something we had been developing in our meetings since Christmas by looking at Acts and the gospels to find out what it means to be a community of disciples. The rule was signed by all the community and the commissioning was essentially a commitment by us all to seek to live the life expressed in the rule.

Reconnect - BishopWe organise felt making sessions as part of our outreach activity, and we made felt 'stones' on the commissioning day to be included in a prayer cairn. People came up and prayed for Reconnect as they put down one of the stones. The bishop also seemed to enjoy the day, even having his face painted (after the ceremony!)

The vision to gather together a missional community emerged after six months of prayer and listening, and Reconnect came into being in September 2009.

As Pioneer Minister to central Poole, my area includes the town centre and lower Hamworthy. This area is undergoing large amount of development and a huge proportional increase in population. It's a relatively small area, ranging from a small housing estate which is in one of the most deprived wards in England to converted warehouse apartments whose owners have a yacht just off the Quay. Tourism is also a major factor with people coming to work here, usually seasonally, from all over the country.

Reconnect - prayer cairnWe see Reconnect as a shop window to say Church is not just about Sunday mornings, it's about many other things. Our aim for Sundays is to meet in such a way that our energy can be put into making friends with non-Christians in the area and serve the community. One of the most effective ways so far has been to clean the local beach a couple of times! It was an easy thing for us to go and do. The first time we did it we had various people ask us what were we doing, and the second time we had four local residents come and join us to help.

Avenues for mission that we are exploring include workplace ministry, a felt-making group and a grow-your-own project on a small housing estate. As a community we are generally nomadic, quite deliberately so, as that offers a chance for people to reflect on where they are in this journey.  But it soon became clear that people felt they needed a place as a focus, a place to meet that is central to our mission.

Reconnect - Corfe CastleWe have a monthly pattern of meeting one Sunday in a local school, the second Sunday in our homes, third Sunday 'out and about' serving the community and fourth Sunday worshipping at other local churches. We dub this 'Festival' Sunday when Reconnect regulars go to a church somewhere else. We can't provide the experience of a bigger church, worshipping in a larger fellowship, so we say go and enjoy that experience and feed back into Reconnect. We also meet as adults on a Tuesday evening to worship, pray and explore our mission and community values together.

Funding was made available for three years, and I'm very aware how things take time to come to fruition. At the moment, we are really just feeling our way but we remain very committed to laying down firm foundations for a community. We aim to be invitational and participative in everything we get involved in, and work towards living out that rule of life which will provide us with our core values and shape all we do.


Simon GoddardPioneering Baptist minister, Simon Goddard, explains how RE:NEW grew in rural Cambridgeshire.

Lode is situated about eight miles north east of Cambridge and the Baptist Chapel serves five villages in East Cambridgeshire. The membership of Lode Chapel has been declining, but is currently stable at just over twenty members. The majority of these are professional couples with families, although around a third of the members are retired.

I was called to part-time ministry at Lode Chapel in September 2005, with a particular focus on pioneering. Lode Chapel held a summer holiday club which was a well attended feature of the church’s outreach. Despite positive contact with a large number of local families, there had been very little follow-up to the club. This became an issue we discussed with the local Anglican vicar and we ended up talking about the possibility of a monthly 'Kids Club'.

NEW - gymSo in September 2006, 'Sunday Club' was launched with personal invitations for each of the sixty or so children that had been to the holiday club, and adverts in the village magazines and through the schools. It was advertised as a 'holiday club on a Sunday' and this meant that there would be video, games, craft, action songs, a creative prayer activity, and a very short talky bit focussed around a memory verse. A number of families from the holiday club joined us at the first event and although a few didn't return, many continued to come each fourth Sunday.

Initially resourced only by the Baptists (who cancelled their Chapel service on that Sunday), sustainability was an issue. Fortunately, however, the vicar had been approached about having a curate, and had asked me to meet him. Jonathan, and his wife Emma, were excited about what was happening with 'Sunday Club'. They were keen to get involved, and from September 2007 they joined me in planning and leading the events. Graciously, on those Sundays, the vicar allowed them to be free from responsibilities in his five parishes to be able co-lead.

We recognised the weakness of our individual churches in sustaining mission and the need for us to work together. As Jonathan shared with the parish churches news of what was happening in Bottisham, one of his other churches, in Swaffham Bulbeck, asked whether it could start something similar. I was invited to be part of discussions about this possibility right from the start, and when, in May 2008, this new event started, it was scheduled for the second Sunday of each month partly so that the 'Sunday Club' families would have the opportunity of attending something twice a month.

NEW - pool splashThis development, however, was not how the members of Lode Chapel had initially envisioned 'Sunday Club' progressing. The fellowship’s hope was that 'Sunday Club' would provide a way for the main Chapel congregation to grow, but although one family had come to a few services, they had not stayed. Families were still coming month by month to the school event, but Chapel services were so different from 'Sunday Club' that it seemed such movement was unlikely. To me, rather than being engaged in an outreach activity, it seemed that we were now involved in planting a new congregation. Although it was difficult for the Chapel members to understand, I felt that my commitment to this new initiative was critical.

The first few Swaffham Bulbeck events attracted a good number of new people, mainly families from that village. Although it was also based in a primary school hall, the feel of this event was quite different. Tables were set out in a café-style (rather than the 'Sunday Club' rows) and there was deliberately a less churchy feel (for example, no singing) to make it more accessible for those with very little, if any, church experience. The hope was that it would be a relaxing and enjoyable place for families to spend some time together doing something fun as well as thought-provoking. The parish church congregation didn’t cancel its morning service but came afterwards to the school (which is next to the church) for shared refreshments at the start of RE:NEW. This was a particularly busy but rewarding time; we were making positive contacts with a number of families who were coming to the school events, and slowly but surely our churches were become more engaged in mission.

NEW - venueThere have been some challenges as we've slowly realised that the two styles of event connect with two different groups of people. Whilst the Swaffham Bulbeck event was accessible for the 'un-churched', many of those coming to the 'Kids Club' could be described as 'de-churched' – having some previous, but not current, connection with church. But as we've clarified the vision there have been some exciting times too as a growing number of people at Lode Chapel have grown in commitment and enthusiasm to this mission activity. Many members have a more active role in the 'Kids Club' which is now accompanied by a 'RE:NEW Café' where parents chat over a coffee and watch a Nooma DVD. Jonathan and Emma, whose particular calling is to work with the 'un-churched', are now taking a leading role in organising social events and 'community blessing' activities.

The three of us, along with the rest of the leadership team, see the need for us to be building this fledgling community as well as supporting those who are coming to faith through Alpha and the other small groups that are developing. Recognising the mission opportunity, the Baptist Union is providing a grant that has enabled me to be in full-time ministry since 2008, but nonetheless there is still uncertainty in terms of the future of the congregation and the personnel involved. We are therefore also exploring the possibility of a Bishop's Mission Order, and our prayer is that resources will be found which enable someone to be appointed specifically to oversee the future of RE:NEW.

Hartcliffe and Withywood Lighthouse

When Rachel Schofield realised there were real spiritual and social needs on two estates in Bristol, she decided to do something about it. This is her story.

Hartcliffe and Withywood Lighthouse began with the inspiring vision of community transformation and Christian outreach based in local houses. The aim was to reach out to local people on the large adjoining needy estates of Hartcliffe and Withywood on the southwest edge of Bristol.

Working on a regeneration project in Withywood from 2000, I quickly gained a heart to reach people in the area with the Christian message, and felt frustrated that local churches were not in a position to reach adults in their twenties to fifties. Only around 2% of local people attended the local churches yet many local people expressed a belief in God, but didn't know who Jesus is.

Whilst working on a church based community clean-up project I met local resident Heather Williams and Revd Jenny Low, the new curate of St Andrews Church. They both shared my vision for the area. Jenny opened up her house and the three of us (leaders of the Lighthouse) with other Christians from the local catholic and evangelical churches met for a year to pray and develop the vision, before inviting local people to come along.

Lighthouse - Baptism

At the launch of the Lighthouse in 2002, we invited local people we knew to join us for a full Christmas meal, particularly people who were the hubs of the local community who knew many people. We wanted them to help the project become known. Since then around 10-25 people have met every Friday evening for a meal, and time afterwards where a guest would share their testimony about an issue which affects local people such as abuse, addiction, relationships, debt and so on. This had an impact on those who attend particularly many unchurched, male, single parents in their 20s and 30s. Overall we estimate that the project has supported over 70 people since it began.

Initially we funded this ourselves, but after 5 years as things grew we were able to secure funding for food costs, training, materials and venue hire from a charitable trust and Bristol Church. As the sense of community has grown in these groups, we have taken people off to visit churches and festivals such as 'New Wine' to broaden their Christian experience.

Our annual prayer walk was so exciting that in 2004 we decided to start monthly prayer meetings. These were initially for the leaders to pray for the area but those attending Lighthouse wanted to be part of it. The meeting was changed to a format which was more inclusive for local unchurched people and held in a community venue at the local "Teenage Parents Project". The services are participatory with contemporary worship songs, creative interactive reflective elements, small group work and prayer, using modern technology and film.

After a few years, many of the group began to seek more Christian spiritual input, specifically wanting to explore the bible and prayer. We tried to encourage them to attend the local or other churches in the city but the gap between them and the churches remained wide. Over two years five members of our fresh expression of church were baptised in a paddling pool in the front garden of the house, right in the face of the community who watched on.

An established Christian couple bought a house in the area and offered themselves as leaders in 2009. This enabled us to start a discipleship group for those wanting to explore the Christian faith in more depth. This is held in a members house and a core of eight people meet each week to study the bible, pray have fun and eat pudding.

The Lighthouse now does worship, mission and community and has been working with the Church Urban Fund in a study on mission outside church and to reflect on the development of the group.

It remains a challenge for this fresh expression to become sustainable when the leaders are all volunteers. We are trying to make the project less dependent on a few of us and would like local people to develop into leaders, but that still remains a major challenge.

Steve's story

Lighthouse - Steve

I was born in Hartcliffe but my family moved to Knowle West, a neighbouring estate in South Bristol. My parents split up when I was young, my mother left us and I was bullied a lot because of my disability.

One day the local police came to my secondary school to choose a pupil to give them the opportunity to go to America. I couldn’t believe it when I was chosen. On the journey out, I was late to Heathrow and missed the flight. They put me on another flight but later that day I discovered that the flight I should have been on was the Pan Am flight which crashed and all passengers were killed. That was my first experience of flying and it was then quite scary but I had a fabulous time in America. Looking back I knew God is really looking after me.

A few years later I met my ex-partner and started a family. She went off with another man and took the children who I am now trying to get access to through court. I met a community worker at the Fathers Project I was attending who was from the Lighthouse and I decided to go along to try and cheer myself up. People were so kind and welcoming although I was expecting weird looks. The testimonies made me think "why don’t I give it a go" and God was helping me get over the loss of my mum and cope better with not being able to see my children. In July 08 I got baptized at the Lighthouse and now I go every week.

Somewhere Else

If you have seen expressions: the dvd – 1 then you will remember Somewhere Else – the Liverpool ‘bread’ church. Heather Lovelady brings the story up to date.

After a fantastic 10 years at Somewhere Else, we have spent the summer saying our goodbyes to our founder minister, Rev Dr Barbara Glasson, and have just welcomed Rev Ian Hu as our new minister from September.

Transition is never easy and over the last 12 months we have worked and prayed hard as a community to find the person to help us continue this unique city centre ministry. We are excited to see where God will take us over the next few years. Will bread making remain at the centre of the mission? We are keeping an open mind, although this simple yet deeply theological concept has helped us engage practically and spiritually with many people: marginalised, ordinary and powerful here in Liverpool, nationally and in the wider world. Our small upper room continues to provide safer space for the vulnerable, inspiration to those discerning their calling, silence for prayer and reflection and a place to be continually ‘amazed’ by the bread…

We recently held a story making event at Somewhere Else with artist Laura Wild. You may like to look at the website to see some photos and video clips of community members fashioning ‘story starters’ from sourdough and then making their story as part of a national artwork project called ‘culture capital 2009’.

Come and visit! We are open for bread making, prayers and lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30 to 2.00pm and worship is on the third Sunday of the month at 11.00am.